DOBSON — Playing on a holiday was admittedly a challenge for the Surry Central soccer team, but the Golden Eagles still did more than enough to earn their second straight win.
Central got two goals from Nolan McMillen and one from Chaco Sanchez to make its “working holiday” a good one on Labor Day Monday, shutting out visiting Starmount 3-0 despite playing in spurts.
“I texted the boys this morning and said ‘Guys, you have to get up early, get moving and get the blood flowing,’ but I’m sure at 11:30, half of them rolled over and looked at the clock,” said Golden Eagles head coach Blake Roth, whose team improved to 3-1-2 on the season. “It’s hard to play on a day off, and I know a lot of people don’t like playing on Labor Day. We probably won’t do it next year, but it’s hard to get the games in.”
In fact, Roth’s team was the only one in the area that chose to play on Monday. Last year, Surry Central was never able to play Starmount due to weather postponements, and the coach wanted to ensure that the match was played this fall. He appreciated the support of his administration in making it happen, and admission to the match was free.
“I have a fantastic assistant principal who came over here for this,” he said.
The match itself saw both teams take some time to hit their stride, most likely due to the unusual circumstance of playing on a long weekend. It wasn’t until the seventh minute that either team had a shot on goal, but it was a good one — Central junior Axel Rangel had an open shot from about 23 yards out with the Starmount defense disorganized, and the Rams were lucky that his blast clanged loudly on the crossbar and went back into play.
The Golden Eagles had the early advantage and pressed it. In the eighth minute, Andres Jaimes headed a ball to Nolan McMillen, but Rams keeper Gregory Tulbert made the stop from 15 yards out.
When Central finally did get on the board, in the 11th minute, it was a highlight-reel goal from McMillen that got the job done. The junior was near his own sideline about 30 yards from the net, and launched a shot that sailed into a perfect spot directly at the right corner of the goal. It hit the metal on the inside of the corner and then ricocheted into the net as the home team went on top 1-0.
The Eagles kept attacking, and the Rams were fortunate that McMillen’s shot was the only one that found the goal. Jaimes just missed the goal in the 13th minute, and two minutes after that, he send a pass ahead to Sanchez, who put a head on the ball and sent it just over the crossbar.
Around the midway point of the first half, which saw the teams stop play for a water break in the 90-degree heat, Starmount started to get its offense going. Jesus Alveraz and Marlon Mejia started getting some runs down the field and making the Central defense go to work. In the 25th minute, Mejia appeared to have Eagle keeper Johnny Garcia one-on-one, but Andres Flores rushed over and cleared it just in time. Another time, Garcia was all alone against the Rams’ Aimar Membrila, but made a sliding save. In minute 29, Garcia denied Colby Macemore on a free kick. Mejia and Alveraz teamed up in minute 38 and the Eagles’ defense was out of position, but the Rams missed the shot.
Things went back the way of the Eagles after halftime. McMillen missed high from 20 yards in the 44th minute. Starmount was unable to even get the ball out of its own end until well into minute 48, but a minute after that, Dario Zamora put Garcia to the test again and the Central keeper passed it.
One of the Eagles was whistled for a foul at the 52-minute mark and Starmount’s Daniel Benitez had what looked like a promising shot at the goal, but it went high over the crossbar and the Eagles stayed ahead.
Finally, in minute 61, Central began to take control even though the Rams had fresher legs. Rangel and Sanchez both got a run down the middle of the field, and Rangel got the ball ahead to his teammate from about 10 yards for a goal and a 2-0 lead for the Eagles.
Central’s playmakers ended up saving the day for the Eagles on an evening where Starmount clearly seemed to be in better game shape.
“We’ve been hit by the injury bug, and we’re going to have to get physically tougher and mentally tougher,” said Roth. “We’re going to have to get into better shape, but it’s one of those things where it’s hard to know what to do. Do you run a kid in practice who is hurt, and maybe make the injury a little bit worse?”
The Rams had a few more chances to put something together after that, but the second Eagle goal made things much tougher for the visitors. And McMillen salted it away when he caught the Rams napping and scored from 10 yards out in the 75th minute.
Roth was glad to get the win, but he and the other coaches cautioned the players that they still have things to work on if they want to beat several highly-rated opponents coming up on the schedule, such as East Surry, Forbush, Mount Airy and West Stokes.
“We have to be more consistent about moving the ball around. It seems like sometimes we want to play touch soccer, and other times we want to send the ball direct,” said Roth. “We need to be consistent and not change our gameplan from one second to another, because then we open ourselves to counterattacks, like we did tonight.”
Central will travel to East Surry, the state’s fifth-ranked 1A team, on Wednesday night.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.